And then there were three.
On Oct. 15, Belmont University President Bob Fisher, PhD, announced the school's intention to launch a new College of Medicine in collaboration with HCA Healthcare.
The announcement came as Belmont was in the final stages of preparing to host the second presidential debate in the school's history. "As seen with all of the efforts observed this week as we prepare to host a presidential debate, Belmont University settles for nothing less than excellence in everything we do," said Fisher. "That is certainly our intent with this new College of Medicine, and working with HCA Healthcare, I have no doubts that this program will produce the next generation of healthcare leaders."
HCA Healthcare's Nashville-based TriStar Health will provide clinical elements in support of Belmont's plans to pursue Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) accreditation, which is the nationally recognized accrediting authority sponsored by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the Council on Medical Education of the American Medical Association. "HCA Healthcare will bring world-class expertise to Belmont's College of Medicine, offering our students extraordinary faculty instructors and a pathway to residency and clinical placements," noted Fisher.
With this announcement, Belmont seeks to become the 156th LCME-accredited medical school in the nation and the third one in the city of Nashville, joining Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Belmont's program would be the fifth allopathic medical school in the state with Quillen College of Medicine in Johnson City and University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Medicine in Memphis. Tennessee is also home to the DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine at LMU in Harrogate.
Despite already having five programs in operation in the state, Fisher pointed to the significant physician gap anticipated over the coming decade with shortages already being felt in some communities. Data published by AAMC in June estimated a physician shortage of between 54,100 and 139,000 physicians by 2033. Capacity in terms of class size, faculty and available clinical rotation sites have combined to limit the number of graduates medical schools can produce annually. Belmont looks to help address the looming shortage by welcoming an inaugural class of 150 students, with an expected enrollment of 500-600 students when the College of Medicine reaches full capacity.
"According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the shortage of U.S. physicians continues to worsen, and we share Belmont University's commitment to address this critical need," said HCA Healthcare CEO Sam Hazen. "We appreciate our long history of collaboration with Belmont, and we look forward to supporting their pathway to be a successful LCME-accredited medical school."
In addition to being a leading care provider, HCA Healthcare is also a leader in clinical and medical education, with 58 teaching hospitals among its affiliates. The health system is the largest sponsor of gradual medical education (GME) programs, with more than 4,300 residents and fellows in 272 programs. In addition, HCA Healthcare affiliates include Galen College of Nursing, Research College of Nursing and Mercy School of Nursing. HCA Healthcare also has several Centers for Clinical Advancement that provide nursing training in simulation environments.
In Middle Tennessee, TriStar Health will provide third year medical students core clinical clerkships and fourth year medical students clinical elective rotations. HCA Healthcare also will provide a pathway to GME opportunities for Belmont College of Medicine graduates and will support existing members of the medical staff who may be interested in faculty positions at Belmont.
Fisher noted the academic and clinical expertise HCA Healthcare brings to the table, along with the countless opportunities presented by being located in the nation's healthcare capital, aren't the only advantages Belmont medical students will receive. He said they would also benefit from numerous interprofessional healthcare opportunities already embedded on the university's campus. Belmont has heavily invested in the health sciences and currently offers degrees in nursing (bachelor's, master's and DNP), physical therapy (DPT), pharmacy (PharmD), occupational therapy (OTD) and public health (bachelor's) as well as an MBA in Healthcare.
As for the next steps in the process, Fisher said the university will immediately launch a nationwide search for the inaugural dean of the new Belmont College of Medicine. The dean will then begin to build a team and initiate the required steps to pursue candidacy status with LCME. A prominent site has already been identified for a building to house the College of Medicine, and preliminary plans are being developed for the approximately 150,000-square-foot facility.
"A College of Medicine is the natural next step in Belmont's healthcare offerings," stated Fisher. "It's not an easy step, but it's characteristic of Belmont University to take on challenges and do big things ... and do those things well."
The More the Merrier
Cities with Three or More Med Schools
Although there are several other cities that house three or more colleges of medicine, Nashville would be among the smallest of the group with a population similar to Washington, DC. However, Nashville's size is bolstered by its national reputation as a healthcare capital for the United States, which should be highly attractive to incoming medical students.
Other cities housing three or more allopathic medical schools are:
Three: Boston, Houston, Washington, DC
Four: Chicago, Philadelphia
Seven: New York City